On April 14, Michigan State University hosted its 25th annual University Undergraduate Research & Arts Forum, where students presented their projects to faculty judges and competed for cash prizes. This year, three research projects conducted and presented by Broad undergraduate students were recognized as first-place winners.
In the business category, hospitality business junior Olivia Cannella won first place for her project and poster presentation titled “Going Green Takes Time! A Trend Analysis of LEED-Certified Hotel Developments in the United States,” a study that’s the first of its kind.
LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building rating system. LEED certifications were established to highlight leaders in the industry that are paving the way for the next generation of sustainable property developments and renovations. These certifications also play an important role in the Broad College, as the Minskoff Pavilion was the first academic building at MSU to receive a LEED Gold certification.
“Sustainability has been a topic of conservation for decades and will continue to be more and more crucial in any industry. As a high carbon-producing field, hospitality businesses have a responsibility to stay at the forefront of green technology and environmentally friendly practices,” Cannella said. “I explored two decades’ worth of data and attributed any development trends to human, social and political behavior. Over the past 20 years, there have been hundreds of hotels that earned various tiers of LEED certifications, opening an opportunity for exploration regarding when, why and where these properties are becoming certified.”
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Cannella also conducted and presented another winning project and poster in the social science humanities arts section called “How Well Do You Know Me? An Investigation on Guest Recognition Preferences and Impacts in the Hospitality Industry.” The study explored the perceptions and limitations of individualized and personalized hospitality experiences through application of guest recognition practices.
She explained, “As guest recognition techniques are being utilized in multiple markets, researchers need to gauge their limitations and determine when relationship building and need anticipation go from helpful to harmful. This study examines what the best recognition practices are, how often to use personal touches, if specific individuals can impact guest relationships better than others and where guest experiences can be impaired by excessive recognition and attentiveness.”
Having participated in UURAF last year, Cannella said the experience this year had changed so much for her. “I thought I was only giving an oral presentation, but I realized how much I can appreciate stand-up poster presentations. This format allowed me to convey my ideas and findings more informally and gather instant feedback for future studies. It was particularly valuable to present two continuous studies this time because I will be developing the next stage of my project soon.”
Sustainability was the overarching theme of another winning project produced by sophomore business-preference and economics student Jogi Katende and first-year animal science student Delani Stull. They took home the first-place prize in the social science general category for their study and oral presentation titled “Stock Performance of Sustainable Companies: Does Size Matter?”
B Lab certification, considered the gold standard for sustainable companies, can be obtained by companies that work rigorously to maintain high scores on the globally used environmental, social and governmental scale. Katende and Stull identified every available B Lab–certified company in various global stock markets and split the companies into two portfolios based on high and low market caps. Their data displayed the risks and returns of each portfolio and benchmarked them against the S&P 500 to highlight the possible financial gain or loss of investing in companies with high sustainability ratings.
“I kept track of the high market cap portfolio while my partner, Delani, kept track of the low market cap portfolio,” Katende said. “Our key finding was that high market cap sustainable stock portfolios can, at the very minimum, compete with the S&P 500 and have a similar risk to the S&P 500. We also found that low market cap sustainable stock portfolios can also compete with the S&P 500 but are substantially riskier.”
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Their research began as part of coursework done for a Collaborative Online International Learning partnership within a course led by Antoinette Tessmer, fixed-term faculty of finance. Through the experience, Tessmer’s students, like Katende and Stull, exchanged ideas with students from Setsunan University in Japan and practiced explaining their research cross-culturally.
Katende explained how winning at UURAF was an honor. “Our research has been among my favorite parts of my first year at MSU, and I am glad that it was recognized. We now plan to continue working on it and eventually publish our findings.”
Richard Spreng, associate dean for undergraduate programs, served as a judge this year and noted the strength of the student presentations.
“I was incredibly impressed by the innovation and scale of the student research projects presented, led by Broad undergraduates,” he said. “It’s always exciting to see our students develop an interest and passion for research. By taking on these projects and by presenting at UURAF, Broad Spartans are staying curious, pursuing new ideas and advancing the knowledge base and understanding of important topics at MSU.”